Sunday, 23 August 2015


Stuff doesn’t matter that much to me. I don’t drift through life wishing I owned this car or that washing machine. When I lived in the USA, I failed to feel compensated for my long working hours and lack of holiday time by buying stuff.

Everyone else I knew, intelligent sensitive people, raised their pulses as they clutched shopping bags and ordered items for delivery, while I simply dreamed of a couple of days off.

Eventually I decided to give consumerism a go, so I took myself downtown and walked into the Virgin Megastore, determined to buy movies and music. After hours browsing I left with two DVDs and a CD, but felt neither excitement nor fulfilment.

Owning things doesn’t bring me happiness, but free time to sit and stare, to scribble, to walk myself into a sweat along the bohreens of Co. Galway, between the meadowsweet, purple loosestrife and fuchsia laden with orchestras of buzzing bees: all of the above bring me joy.

There is one reliable way in which I combine the spending of money and time to pleasurable effect, as I did the other week when 
I spent a solitary evening wandering the streets and pubs of a small town in west Clare, observing, participating and thoroughly enjoying myself.

Walking into the town early on a Summer’s evening, the stench of chip fat hangs heavy on the air. For a moment the gloopy aroma is almost overpowering, but then I turn a corner and 
- Phew! Breathe! - it’s gone.

In front of me is a familiar parade of pubs. Which is offering the real Ireland in this tourist haven tonight? Sadly one of the larger hotels in the town has closed down, so I slide into the bar next door to find it almost empty, save for two very obliging bar staff trying to ignore the two regular customers sat at the bar.

Ordering my Jameson I sit quietly, relishing this moment of public privacy. However it soon becomes clear that I cannot ignore the heated conversation going on to my right. 

Sitting on his barstool, wearing a tweed jacket and a pair of eyebrows as white and crazily wild as an Atlantic breaker in a Winter storm, yer man is trying to explain to his mate how the government has sold Ireland to global corporations.

Standing in front of him, tall and lithe, sporting a weary worry-heavy facial expression and a complexion that’d make a beetroot appear anaemic, his mate looks as if he’s heard it all before.

The debate, diluted substantially by the amount of drink on the two men, is reduced to that essentially Irish form of communication, in which there is an Insister and a Resister. What is said matters less than pulling off a victory, and the lads make a great cabaret.

“So, now listen to me, listen, so when you go down d’Lidl and pay 7 euros for a can of mackerel, the lads back in Germany will be paying 4 euros for the same thing. D’ya see? That’s how da government's ripping us off, offering these companies the chance to put their prices up.”

“But I don’t go to d’Lidl. I do me shoppin’ at d’Aldis.”

“Okay okay, same as. If you’d be buying the same mackerel in d’Aldis, it’d be cheaper in Germany than it is here.”

“Feckin’ long way to go to get a can of mackerel, and who’d be paying that anyway, when you can hang a milk bottle top off the rocks and rake them in outa the sea?”

“You’re missing the point, so.”

Dunno, looks like you’re the one missing the point, going all the way to Germany to spend 4 Euros on a can of mackerel.”

“I’m not sayin’ anything like that. Jeeze Mikey, sometimes ye can be terrible slow. It’s the government, that shower of cunts which is ripping off d’Irish consumers and selling d’nation to d’highest bidder. That’s what I’m saying.”

“So what about the mackerel?”

“Forget about the feckin’ fish. The fish is irrelevant. Can ye just try to understand a simple political truth?”

“No need to get heated. You’re the one who shtarted on about the fish. Anyways sometimes I do go to Dunnes to do me shopping, so’s I keep my money in the country, d’y’see?”

“But Dunnes are the ones ripping off their staff. Ye shouldn't be shopping there at all.”

“So if I can’t go to Dunnes, d’Lidls or d’Aldis, where am I meant to go?”

“I don’t give a monkey’s where you get your shopping. I’m just trying to explain a simple thing to ye and you’re not getting it.”

“Did you ever think that maybe it’s too simple? I prefer a more soph-histicated argument, myself, so.”

Just when they appear unstoppable, they both suddenly fall silent, raise their heads and shuffle towards the TV with quasi-religious reverence.

All hail the powerful forces of Met Eireann’s weather forecast.

As Gerry Murphy delivers his meteorological sermon of gales, thunder and lightning, another an auld fella walks into the bar from the jacks, casually tucking in his shirt and doing his belt up, as if he were in his own home rather than a public bar.

Licking his lips, his eyes are focused, his chin stretched forwards as he concentrates on the multitasking demands of walking across the room, breathing, thinking, belt tightening and tucking in all at once.

Spotting a stranger in the ranks he turns to look challengingly at me. Raising his chin and almost snarling, he declares:

“Tourist, hear me! See that! Storms the man says, so stay away from the beach! That’s all I’m saying.”

Not one part of me can be bothered to explain that I've lived here nearly 25 years. Tonight I’m an English tourist, and that suits me fine. 

Buying DVDs doesn’t do it for me. This is the way I love to combine my time and money: sitting on a barstool; a part of it while apart from it, revelling in the humanity of it all.

©Charlie Adley

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